South East prisons suffer ‘chronic overcrowding’

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Prisons have been forced to deal with 87 incidents of ‘concerted indiscipline’ in three years.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics show that trouble in South East prisons has reached epidemic levels, with incidents rising by more than 200 per cent across England and Wales.

Prisons nationwide recorded a total of 282 incidents during 2015 – more than five a week – as they struggled to cope with growing numbers of prisoners, chronic overcrowding and deep staff cuts.

The National Offender Management Service introduced a ‘new enhanced incident reporting standard’ last summer to gain a better understanding of the scale of the problem.

The figures – seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform – reveal that incidents had more than doubled before the new recording arrangements came in – rising from 92 in 2012, to 148 in 2013, to 191 in 2014.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Prime Minister has recognised that prisons are failing and that wholesale reform is needed.

“But simply trying to build a way out of the problem will not work and would mean years of disorder, violence and people dying while we wait for new prisons to be built.

“Evidence shows that building additional prisons only compounds overcrowding and its consequent problems as the courts send more people to prison every day.

“We cannot go on cramming more people into jails without any thought for the safety of staff, prisoners and the public.”

An incident is recorded as ‘concerted indiscipline’ if it involves two or more prisoners acting together to defy a lawful instruction or against the requirements of the regime of the establishment. This includes major disturbances, such as riots.

The figures were given by the Prisons and Probation Minister, Andrew Selous, in response to a question asked by shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter.

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